For the first time in my lifetime, natural scientists are looking for help from humanists in knowing the world.
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
The idea of the Anthropocene derives from the work of the Noble-prize winning chemist Paul Crutzen (‘The Geology of Mankind,’ Nature 415, 3 January 2002), who argued that we have left the Holocene (the official present epoch, which began at the end of the last Ice Age 11,700 years ago) and have entered a new geological epoch. Because of the environmental effects of industrialization, population growth, and economic development, this is the first epoch to be anthropogenic.
Although still a contested classification in geology and elsewhere, many scholars in the humanities now use the identification of the Anthropocene to reimagine our relationship to the natural world, as well as our ethical responsibilities, political formations, and economic systems. One of the key issues of the Anthropocene is how to reimagine the human in biological or even geological terms, and how to place our industrialised moment in an evolutionary and geological timeframe. In response, there appears to be a politics in the making in which the humanities have a central role. Concurrently, natural metaphors now shape the ways in which we conceive of our media and technologies – we speak of scapes, clouds, ecologies, environments, and so on – and the ways in which we think of our social organization – how, for instance, might we learn from the mutual symbiosis of a mycelium and a root system?
This reading group will work through some of the diverse current literature in this area, which takes the Anthropocene as a point of departure.
T.J. Demos, ‘Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology,’ Third Text 1, no. 120 (January 2013)
Katherine Gibson, Deborah Bird Rose, Ruth Fincher, eds. Manifesto for Living in the Anthropocene, 2015.
Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, 2016.
Jussi Parikka, The Anthrobscene, 2015.
John Durham Peters, The Marvelous Clouds: Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media, 2015.
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, 2015.
Bill McKibben, The End of Nature, 1989.
Timothy Morton, Ecology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics, 2007.